As some of you probably know, I played Dark Souls and beat it, so obviously, I’m an expert on the game. I’ve written several posts about the experience (trawl my archives), some of which are yet to be published. The game is renown for its difficulty, which is well deserved, and I am so stoked for Dark Souls 3, which comes out in April. I haven’t played Dark Souls 2 yet and should, but for some inexplicable reason, they removed the pyromancy class, which is what I rocked throughout the original Dark Souls. I’ve played an hour or two of DS 2, and it just doesn’t have the same feeling to it. I’m going to revisit it again, but not until I finish Skyrim, probably.
I have a love-hate relationship with Dark Souls, but I can’t deny that it’s stuck with me long past the time I finished it. Even though I was just glad to be done with it by the time I beat it, it’s still the game with which I compare every other I play. I’m enjoying the hell out of Skyrim right now, and in part because it reminds me of Dark Souls in some ways. Not in difficulty as the combat is pretty easy so far, but because I’m dual-wielding fire and a battle axe. Or, I was. Now I mix it up, but mostly stick to magick, only switching to actual weapons when I run out of magick.
Anyway, I beat Dark Souls. Let me say that again. I beat Dark Souls. That puts me in an elite class, which means I have the right to tell noobs how to play the game. Hey, I didn’t make the rules, I’m only following them, and according to the Dark Souls forums, if you’ve beaten the game, no one can tell you shit about it. Which, actually, is a perfect metaphor for when people think they’re experts in something in general. Only they know the one true way, and anyone else is full of shit. So, if you have to hate on anything, hate on the fact that this seems to be the accepted protocol that I’ve decided to fully embrace.
I’m joking, obviously, but my desire to write this post was recently reignited as I was watching a YouTuber play Bloodborne. She was cracking on shields and saying how ineffective they are in turtling in Dark Souls. Turtling is when you hold the shield up all the time, and it’s not the best strategy, but it got me through the first half of the game. In fact, it feels weird not to be holding a shield in Skyrim because I always had one in hand in Dark Souls. I eventually learned to keep it down except when I was being directly attacked, but I never gave it up completely, except to beat Super-Biggie, but that’s another post for another day. It’s really with the Biggie & Small fight (Ornstein and Smough) that I started perusing the wikis and realizing that everything I was doing was wrong. Let me count the ways.
- I turtled. As I mentioned above, I played at least the first half of the game with my shield constantly up. It makes sense because everything can hit you very hard, and a shield can absorb some of the damage. However, you use a lot of stamina while shielding, which isn’t preferable. During the Biggie & Small fight, I started lowering my shield once in a while. By the end of the game, I was consciously trying to keep it down and only raising it to block an attack. I wouldn’t say I succeeded, but at least I tried.
- I leveled up my armor. One of the constants in the forums was how useless it is to level up your armor. People advised that it was a waste of money and resources, and yet, I leveled up all my armor as much as possible. This allowed me to stay with my light armor throughout the game, and I was rocking mostly the same armor late in the game that I had started with. I switched it up from time to time depending on the circumstances, but I had a main set that was my default.
- I didn’t roll. One of the biggest things in Souls games is that you can roll to evade attacks. This is a big part of the defensive strategy, but I didn’t do it at all during the first half of the game. Full disclosure: I never used a controller until I played this game. It took me many hours before it stopped feeling like a foreign object in my hands. I will say that the Xbox One controller is much better than the Xbox 360 controller, and it’s the latter I used to play (and beat) Dark Souls. I didn’t know anything about the mechanics before going into the game, so I had to cobble together my own style of play, which wasn’t optimal, but it worked for me. I did start rolling much later in the game (during the DLC in particular), and it’s something I wished I’d been better at.
- I didn’t parry. At all. This is one of those reflex things that as an older person I simply can’t do. I tried. I really did. I practiced on the Silver Knights of Anor Londo between my failed bouts with Biggie & Small, but I couldn’t get the timing. By the time my brain registered that they were attacking me, it was too late to parry. That’s another reason I kept my shield up, by the way. I could parry on occasion, but it was like one out of four or five times–which is not a good ratio, obviously. I didn’t even bother trying for the rest of the game. The last boss is renown for his ability to be parried (by that time, I was reading the wikis liberally), but I never even tried to parry him. I beat him on the second go, anyway, so I’m not too salty about it.
- I leveled up pretty evenly across the board. This is one I actually regret. My tendency is to level up all my skills as best as I can. That’s not advisable in Dark Souls, or in most games, really. The best thing to do is focus on one or two areas, but by the time I realized that, it was too late. I felt as if I were handicapped for the rest of the game, even though I started funneling my souls into dex, intelligence, and vitality mostly. This is one thing I’d do differently if I were ever to play the game again.
- Similarly, I leveled up too many weapons. There are several cool weapons in the game, but one of my gripes is that because they all require different specs, it’s hard to use more than a few of them. To that end, it’s better to level up two or three weapons all the way than to level up several a few times.
- This isn’t something I did wrong, but a rule I crafted that actually held me in good stead. A general rule in Dark Souls is don’t get greedy. It’s tempting to whale away at enemies when you have an opening, but they can turn on you so easily. My rule: 2 to the ass or 1 to the face. Then get the hell out of there and wait for your next opening. I broke this rule with Gravelord Nito because I was pissed at dying to his skeletons the first time and the runback to fight him again. Dark Souls is usually good about making the runback to the boss fairly straightforward and enemy-free, but this one was a pain in the ass. I was so furious when I met up with Nito the second time, I just stood in his face and hit him with every spell I had. I killed him in less than 30 seconds and when I came back to myself, I was shaking with Adrenalin. I wouldn’t recommend this at all, but it got the job done that one time.
- I didn’t two-hand my weapon for the most part. This is supposedly another big part of Souls strategy–two-handing your weapon and strong attacks. I did neither, mostly because I refused to give up my shield. I really think this is part of the concession I make to my age–my reflexes are not those of a twenty-year old, and I can’t base my style of play on twitch responses. It’s probably another reason I like being a ranged character because there’s more room for error.
Did I mention a time or ten that I actually beat the game despite my rampant deficiencies playing it? I don’t have any words of wisdom for anyone struggling with the game, but I do have some for people who’ve beaten the game and want to be helpful to people still playing it. During the second half of my playthrough, I was reading the wikis and forums regularly to figure out how to beat certain enemies (mostly bosses). I saw a pattern of responses that I considered unhelpful, and here are my suggestions for not being a complete asshat while giving advice.
- Do not under any circumstance tell the person struggling that the boss s/he’s fighting is easy. I saw this a lot, and it irritated me every time, even though I wasn’t the one asking. Some poor sap is pouring his heart out about how he can’t kill Ceaseless Discharge no matter what he tries, and ArtoriasisaBitch2323 comments, “LOL EASIEST BOSS IN GAME TROLOLOLOLOLOLL!” First of all, that isn’t helpful because there is no actual advice. Secondly, it’s a dick move, even if it’s couched in, “I didn’t think this boss was that hard. You just have to….”. Even if you one-shot Ceaseless Discharge with your Black Knight Sword +10, keep that shit to yourself. To someone struggling with a boss, the last thing s/he needs to hear is how easy said boss is. Plus,if you’ve played the game several times, it’s possible that you’ve forgotten how much you shit your pants the first time you saw Ceaseless Discharge because you figured out how to beat him and the pain of the first time has faded away. I played a bit of NG+ after beating the game, and I romped through Undead Asylum and Undead Burg without getting killed. It was hard to remember the time when base hollows were killing me with appalling regularity because I was mowing them down like dust. But for someone just starting the game, the base hollows are terrifying and as hard as Knight Artorias (possibly the hardest boss of the DLC).Try to remember before making a noob feel bad about his/her struggles.
- Speaking of NG+, don’t say how much harder said boss is in NG+. It’s similar to number one in that the person asking has no frame of reference to understand what you’re saying, nor does that person care about NG+ when the first playthrough is hard enough. It’s just another way of saying, “This isn’t hard, noob,” without saying the actual words, so knock it off.
- Do not give tips based on a different build. If someone is asking how to beat a boss with a dex build, do not say, “Put on your heaviest armor, grab your biggest axe, and tank it up.” Despite what some aficionados think, there are several ways to beat a boss, and you can usually find a way to beat the boss based upon your particular build. I was having a hell of a time beating Knight Artorias in the DLC. I scoured the forums and the wikis, but there was nothing that would work for me. I watched a few YouTube videos to see if there was anything I could use, and I stumbled upon a guy with a pyromancy build who killed Artorias only using his fire spells. I had erroneously assumed that because Artorias was resistant to fire, none of my fire spells would work on him. The video showed me how wrong I was, and it gave me hope that I could actually beat Artorias. I buffed my spells, walked into the arena, and killed Artorias with two blasts of my Great Chaos Fireballs or Chaos Firestorm. Something fire-related. It was one of the easiest kills once I actually did it, but it’s not something that would be helpful to someone who’s fighting Artorias with a melee build.
Basically, if someone needs help, try to look at it through his/her eyes and answer accordingly. Do not answer if you’re just going to brag about how easy that particular boss was, which happened more often than I would have thought.Remember your days as a noob and how everything in the game felt so overwhelming. I promise you that your Dark Souls creds will still shine through, even if you don’t brag about how awesome you are, and you’ll actually be helpful in the process. I’ll always be grateful for the tips I read or saw that helped me beat a particularly difficult boss, especially the video with the pyromancer who beat Artorias with fire. The YouTuber wasn’t shouty or self-righteous; he simply explained how to do it–and then did it. Dark Souls is hard enough without having people make you feel even worse about the way you play it. Lastly, I just want to say, if I can beat Dark Souls, you can, too. Good luck!